Connections, Education, Facilitation, Reflection

Come Together For Change

“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”  Henry Ford



Being able to experience learning outside of your school’s four walls seems like standard practice for me.  I think it should be required professional development for all teachers to extend their learning.  Each year as a member of MVPS, I have been privileged enough to attend various forms of Professional Development.  My first year, it was the Stanford d.School where I was engulfed by Design Thinking.  The following summer witnessed me walking through the big city of Exeter, New Hampshire as I learned the Harkness Method.  Recently, I traveled through the trails of Boulder Colorado and landed at Traverse 16.  



Traverse ranks as one of my most meaningful learning experiences.  Couple of reasons why, each session was an experience.  Over the course of 2 ½ days I may have been spoken at for roughly an hour.  Each experience was designed to get participates actively involved in the process.  Sessions were three hours long but the time was so well planned it seemed so much shorter.  I went to a session, received the overview of the session and went on an excursion to apply or obtain the learning.  The final piece of the experience were the people.  Traverse is limited to 100 participants so it is a real intimate setting.  I felt like I came in contact with every participate.  More importantly, I felt I made true connections with 20 or more people at this unique conference.


Some BIG IDEAS I was able to take away from this conference.  There are so many educators working to change the state of education.  The processes that we use may vary from Project Based Learning, Expeditionary Learning, Design Thinking, Big Picture Learning, and the list goes on; ultimately we want our students to have authentic and meaningful learning experiences.  Another take away, I was reminded of the need to get students journaling on a consistent basis.  I wonder how many great ideas I missed the past few years because of not allowing space and time for students to write.  My thoughts around the best learning experiences come outside of the classroom, as we interviewed people on Pearl Street and as Watershed teachers shared their many expeditions.  


Since Traverse is a production put together by the Watershed School I was able to connect with many of the amazing Watershed faculty members.  Team members shared resources and gave me new ideas.  They recharged my battery after a long exciting school year.  They shared the well and refilled my bucket which will have a direct impact on the upcoming Humanities Course. Students will now journal everyday and I hope we will redesign the course to include resilience as a major theme.

The long-term impact of Traverse 16 may not be realized for many years.  It seems that conversations are taking place to solidify a partnership between MVIFI and the Watershed School.  With very similar mindsets it could set in motion a means to inspire and impact the next generation of educators and students.  For me I plan to stay connected to the new members of my tribe and figure out how to grow meaningful relationships.


Have you had a meaningful Professional Development? What made it meaningful?

Connections, DesignThinking, Facilitation, Reflection

Small Group Facilitation

Make Monty

As an educator more and more I am required to be a facilitator.  It is a skill that requires you to give up a degree of power in the classroom or workshop.  I liken a facilitator to Magic Johnson when he was point guard of the Los Angeles Lakers.  Magic was a very talented point guard and had the ability to play all five positions on a court.  He could easily have been a ball hog and taken control of a game but his role of facilitator required him to get all players involved and make everyone great.  A good facilitator has to recognize when to step into a situation and when to step back.  How do you gain those skills as a facilitator?   Its very easy, PRACTICE – to perform or exercise repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.

What happens when your practice does not mimic an experience you are about to encounter. I recently had an experience in facilitation that that brought me into unfamiliar territory.  I was hosting a meetup event for The Teachers Guild.  I was expecting close to 20 participants at this event.  My previous experiences with the Guild have all involved virtual coaching so this was truly a new endeavor.  My gameplan was set and my previous experiences with facilitation would be displayed.  Only four people showed up!  It was a little disappointing, but reflecting back it was understandable.  High School Graduations were taking place at various schools, it was exam time and many people were planning for memorial day weekend.  So as a facilitator what was I to do in that moment.

My facilitation prep for 20 people, became a small intimate fireside chat.  Instead of standing at the front of the room talking down to my small group.  I sat at the table with them and had more of a conversation.  The workshop was centered around Empathy Interviewing and Prototyping and in essence I was testing my ability to facilitate in a small group.  Things I learned:  (1) small group facilitation can get a little uncomfortable because there is no place for participates to hide, (2) because of the intimate setting you get to know your participates a lot better, (3) the encounters can be more meaningful because you become a close knit group.

Still consider the following, give the members of the small group space and time to plan without you as facilitator always being in the mix.  Do not make members feel uncomfortable by forcing them to speak, allow it to come natural.  Yes and spread the conversation around so that all members are active.  Push them to allow their ideas to go deeper but read body language to identify when you are getting pushy.  Ask questions to gain insights from the group, while helping they go deeper but avoid being annoying.

The art of facilitation can be a wonderful skill once you get the hang of it.  In the classroom it can take the burden off of the teacher and get students involved.  Amongst peers great facilitation can turn an us against them professional development into a team effort. When you “master” facilitation you realize you are not giving up power but gaining more power and influence. Remember perfect practice makes perfect.
How Might You handle small group facilitation?